Whenever I picked up our Wall Street Journal and saw an op-ed piece by Fouad Ajami, I read it first-- because I knew that he would have the most realistic, tell-it-like-it-is-insightful take on whatever was happening in the Middle East.
He was spot-on in his assessment of the so-called Arab Spring, Arab culture and the Arab mentality. It was all the more incredible because Mr. Ajami was a Shiite Arab, born in Lebanon, whose family originated in Iran and emigrated to Lebanon in the 1850s, who changed his entire way of thinking about the Middle East conflict between the Arabs and Israel when reality hit him in the face--and he recognized it, and was not afraid to state it outright. From TheWall Street Journal:
"I was formed by an amorphous Arab nationalist sensibility," he wrote in his 1998 masterpiece, "The Dream Palace of the Arabs." He came to the U.S. for college and graduate school, became a U.S. citizen, and first made his political mark as an advocate for Palestinian nationalism. For those who knew Ajami mainly as a consistent advocate of Saddam Hussein's ouster, it's worth watching a YouTube snippet of his 1978 debate with Benjamin Netanyahu, in which Ajami makes the now-standard case against Israeli iniquity.
He believed in recent years that the American foreign policy was a dismal failure, and he blamed the current breakdown of Iraq and incursion of ISIS squarely on president Obama's incompetance:
"Two men bear direct responsibility for the mayhem engulfing Iraq: Barack Obama and Nouri al-Maliki," he wrote. Ajami believed Obama had failed in his professed duty to provide global leadership: "Today, with his unwillingness to use U.S. military force to save Syrian children or even to pull Iraq back from the brink of civil war, the erstwhile leader of the Free World is choosing, yet again, to look the other way."
So it was with great shock and sadness that I read today in the Wall Street Journal about his death yesterday from cancer, at age 68.
He was a crystal bell of clarity on the reality of the Middle East, Western understanding (and lack of it) of the region, culture and politics, a seeker of truth and unafraid to state his opinions no matter how unpopular they were among his own people. He" told it like it is..."
Mr. Ajami, farewell...I, for one, will miss you.